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My Personal Take On Using AI In Interior Design

Updated: Mar 27

I remember when I first started my career in interior design back in 2007, I was one of the most forward-thinking people you could ever imagine.





Without formal education in interior design and absolutely no business training, I started my firm with growth in mind. I immersed myself in learning and exploring. From the beginning, I sought out how successful firms ran their businesses, and I steadily built my firm based on the successful models I learned about. I am happy to say that many years later, I still have that passion to learn and grow and I have seen the results in where we are today.


Image Via Wix. Using AI in interior Design

I am the first to embrace and adopt certain new technologies and processes to make sure I am bringing the newest and best ideas and offerings to my clients. In fact, I am even developing my own management software to further streamline the processes I have built over the last several years. I definitely believe in growing and evolving in this industry.


So with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in interior design, what is my honest take?





Well, with any new technologies I always look at all sides of the coin to see if it is right for me. I look at how it is impacting the industry now, and more than anything else, I look at the future. How will today's technologies affect the future of interior design? You must look beyond the newness to see what may be more obvious than most can see.


Of course there is no magic crystal ball to help us see the future, but with some wisdom and discernment, you can look for trends and understand where that trend may be headed. As I am studying trends, I don't just look at the design industry, but all industries and human behavior as it relates to it.


AI in general seems to be widely accepted, and that can be a good indication that it can only be a good thing, but I am old enough to know, and have lived through many things that were once widely accepted, that later became detrimental. So I always tread cautiously on anything new that is highly impactful or designed to have mass appeal.


Well, before I get to my personal take on AI in interior design, it is only fair that I look at PROS and CONS, at least from my very limited perspective. Truth be told, I have not used any new AI tools, so I really can't base my opinions on experience. But I have done a fair bit of research and I think I have amassed a decent amount of self-education about the subject.




PROS


It's new.


Fair enough. I remember buying my first iPhone many years ago, and man was I excited at the newness and fanciness that it was! I cannot imagine life now without my iPhone, and trusting that new technology back then was a good call. Well, mostly a good call.


It helps designers ideate.


Fair enough. Sometimes as designers we have a great design in our heads and I suppose it can be helpful to bring it into existence in an instant.


It's inspirational


I suppose it can be. The images of interior spaces I have seen so far are elaborate, ethereal and fantasy-like.


It's Fast


I can see where instead of having to spend hours researching something you can simply ask a robot to produce it for you in seconds.


Other revenue streams


I am yet to understand exactly how that would work for interior designers, but I am sure it can. I have seen people do it as far as the education part of it.


Early Adopter


Listen, I hate not being an early adopter on certain things that become big things. I am sure when Uber first came on the scene, many scoffed at it, and now look! It's taken over the whole taxi cab industry. There is merit to getting in on the ground floor of something that will potentially get bigger.





It levels the playing field


This sounds like a PRO, but I can also see a CON side to this point.


I remember when I first started my career in interior design, I wanted to attract the best clients with great budgets to produce the type of design work that would be top-notch. I wanted this from day one, before I ever put in the hard work that it required at that point. Imagine if that wish was to happen right away. That would be great for me! But think about the designer who has been at it for 5 plus years before me, who paid their dues, and now we are on the same playing field. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, if actual meaningful work is involved. But if AI is the thing that levels the playing field for all, with no barriers to entry, then it is more of a CON than a PRO.



Image Via Wix Gallery

Before I get to the CONS list, I want to share two scenarios I came across recently.





Story #1


I saw a post on Facebook not too long ago of a beautiful moody kitchen. I personally love unexpected kitchen designs with deep moody colors and accents of brass, so this kitchen caught my eye right away. The caption the designer added to the post clearly indicated that they had designed, implemented and had it professionally photographed. But upon closer inspection, I could see that it was AI generated. The designer had gone into one of the AI platforms, and typed in the prompts needed to produce the kitchen.


It wasn't real, but it was clearly being presented as real. Even the follow up comments on the post were confirming the "realness" of the design. If a consumer were to hire that designer based on this image, they would possibly be in for a huge surprise.


That situation is not an isolated case. It is happening all over the industry, and unfortunately, this is something that I could have seen from a mile away. It seems like no big deal now. We could just write off these designers as being dishonest or lacking in integrity. But imagine over the long term how that will affect consumer trust in an industry that is already a mystery to them.


I see some industry folks sounding the alarm on this practice, but it is the very same folks who are pushing the whole AI idea in the industry far more than necessary. It reminds me of those prescription drugs ads you see on TV. The drug will possibly cure one thing, but there is a huge warning label with 100 different side effects. Haha. If you have to put a warning label on it, perhaps it shouldn't be promoted as much.





Story #2


I saw a gorgeous image of a beautifully appointed house on Instagram. It caught my eye right away because it had the feeling of a homestead in the middle of nowhere - similar to the path I am on myself. Naturally I scrolled through the images, and the comments to learn more about the beautiful house.


The person who posted it may have been busy and not able to tend to the comments section. But like me, everyone thought it was real and was throwing out all kinds of compliments about the home. Until one eagle eye person pointed out that it was AI. It caught me off-guard a bit because I certainly didn't catch it right away.


Again, two isolated incidents maybe and I may be overreacting. Maybe




So the argument might be, with any good things there comes the bad. Sure, this is a fact of life and we wholeheartedly embrace that about life and know there is always that trade-off.


But that is when we are to be overly cautious. Not simply throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. The bad can sometimes overtake the good if we are not careful.


I can name off a hundred examples of that in our culture today.



So what are the CONS?


AI will replace human beings. haha.


I say this one almost laughing at myself, because that is exactly what a conspiracy theorist would say. Aaaand, many people who wholeheartedly embrace AI often look at anyone who slightly resists as a conspiracy theorist.


Well, I don't think robots are going to take over the world and enslave mankind, haha. That is science fiction and frankly what mainstream wants us to think in order to fear AI. The truth is a bit more sinister in my opinion. What I do think and see happening is a job that I would normally hire someone for, can now be done by AI. One example is many people are using ChatGPT instead of hiring a copywriter. Again, the argument might be that they are ideating and establishing a starting point, or organizing their thoughts. But again, I am looking at the future, and it will only evolve from here. It will get so advanced that people will no longer need writers.





Anyone can be a designer


We now have people in the industry who have been "advocating for designers" now competing with designers using their knowledge and early adoption to the technology. Opportunities that should rightfully go to designers with knowledge in product design now go to people who are good at typing the right prompts into an AI platform to generate a product or design. Sooner or later, anyone can do this and the need for a designer to design products will diminish.


Product design is so much more than how something looks. It always takes functionality into account, so I strongly believe that product design should be left to product designers who will not only design how something looks, but also how it works. Word-prompting something into existence is not the same as design.


I think the same will happen with consumers and designing their own space. There are savvy consumers out there who still need the help of interior designers to bring a well-designed space to fruition. Now with AI, they too can generate their vision and implement their own design. Sure, a designer eye is still well-trained, and of course there is a lot that goes into executing a design project, but again, you have to look way past the here and now and see what could potentially happen in the future. AI will only advance from here.


Is it really just a tool?


How many tools have you used lately where you literally can do nothing and the tool 100% thinks for you. That sounds almost like a PRO, but it really isn't. One of the things that makes the role of an interior designer so great, is our ability to start from a tiny concept or idea and then using our resources, talents, skills, experience and critical thinking to flesh it out until it gets to something remarkable. It is so much more than settling for an image produced by prompts, limited by what's in their database. Our hand is all over anything we touch and you can see our signature in everything we design.





Nothing makes us special


This is a strong statement, and it is meant to get your attention. I see non-designers producing AI generated images that actually look halfway decent, just from detailed prompts. So what makes me as a designer so special if a machine can do what I want to charge someone for? This would be a fair question to ask as a consumer. The toughest part about this is these said non-designers are VERY VERY proud of what they have "created" and they plaster it all over social media and wait for the compliments to roll in. They even use the words "designed by"to describe the result.





Real design that took a designer ages to conceptualize, develop and implement is now paling in comparison to shiny new AI generated images that anyone can prompt into existence.


I don't care if in the caption it is labeled as "AI generated", when it is being presented as aspirational. It is borderline dishonest. If it is meant to ideate and flesh out ideas, then it shouldn't be all over social media feeds, and certainly not presented as "hey, look what I designed!"


Now AI generated rooms are flooding social media and competing for consumers' eyeballs. They are being posted in places where consumers look for good design work and where designers hope to attract clients with their real work. And to think that this is just the beginning. Now consumer expectations will be affected by things that are not real.


FOMO


Enough said! I see the push and almost pressure on designers trying to build their businesses. They are being bombarded with posts from industry folks about AI being the next big thing, so they naturally experience FOMO and focus their time and attention on it, when the chances of them having any real success with it is slim to none. Remember ClubHouse? Me neither. haha. Everyone said it was a good place to hangout, and now it has evaporated.


I saw how people responded to the rollout of "Threads" recently, and I was surprised to see how many people felt they needed one more platform to manage. Especially when it was not yet proven to be anything that would enhance their businesses or their lives. It all boiled down to FOMO and group think.





It's Mediocrity


Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I love ending my day knowing that I put in a good amount of sweat into creating something meaningful. Work smarter, not harder is everyone's new mantra, but is this really working smarter? I see nothing inspirational nor aspirational to most of the AI generated images I come across. All I see are designers who should be honing their craft on paper, or in CAD relying on AI to do their job, and that can ultimately lead to laziness and mediocrity.


Again, it is stated as ideation, but if that was the case, why share it publicly or out of context of the creative process?


These rooms are not really to scale, the furniture, artwork, and other products are not available through our built-up trade sources, the materials may not even exist in real life, so I miss the purpose of it. Unless the purpose is to show pretty rooms? I get it! We are in the business of pretty rooms, but more than that, we are in the business of functional rooms. Form follows function.


Ok, maybe it can be a source of generating another revenue stream? If the products are not real, I am not sure how exactly that works.


Well Veronica, you are going to be left behind when AI fully rolls out. So be it!

I would like to think that my clients want my brain, my eye and my hand all over their project.


I believe that we should all evolve and grow into the best versions of ourselves, but using our brains is the very thing that causes us to evolve and grow.



San Antonio Kitchen Designed By Casa Vilora Interiors

The kitchen above that I dreamed up not long ago, is something that I am very proud of.


It started with listening to and getting to know what my client was envisioning for her space, building that relationship with client so she trusted me to design the best solution for her family, sketching things out on paper, taking it to a CAD program with the help of a team member, thoroughly specifying every single detail, documenting every detail, communicating every detail, and helping to manage things along with a top-notch GC, is what created this kitchen. No AI prompts here. It was fully conceptualized and designed by a human being.





That is the future of Casa Vilora Interiors. It may not necessarily be working smarter by rejecting AI, but it sure as heck will be my signature all over my clients' visions.


But didn't I post a RENDERING of this kitchen a while back? How is that different from AI?



Rendering Of Same Kitchen Above

That's a great question.


We use 3D photorealistic renderings in some cases as a tool to communicate our designs to our clients.





The difference is that every detail of the rendering was first hand drawn, materials selected and every detail orchestrated before we can even get to the rendering. Basically the kitchen was designed and then the rendering is produced to communicate the design as best as possible. We did not type words into an AI platform and let it do the work for us and have it generate whatever it can produce from its database.


That is a very important distinction.


And while we may share photos of renderings on social media, it is still based on real design, not prompts. It is a part of the creative process and it is a great way to help market our skills and talents to prospective clients.


Here is a great example of a dining room in real life that we designed, and the rendering that we produced to communicate the design to our client. This rendering was shared a few times on social media because it is based on something we created for real.


Click image to see the rendering.





I will end this by saying, that to each their own. I know a lot of designers who always deploy ingenuity and will make the most of what AI brings. I just hope that as they use this to their advantage now, they also look at what that may mean for the future, because legacy building trumps shiny new object every time.


AI in itself may not be the thing to fear, but instead in whose hands it will fall. If you do any meaningful research on the subject of AI, the 4th industrial revolution, web 3.0 and the metaverse, you will find that these are not merely tools to make our lives better. These new technologies are meant to completely change the way we live now. It is about bringing about a whole new system and way of life that many don't realize.


This begs the question: If the keepers of these technologies want a new system (as they have stated in various books I have read), doesn't that mean doing away with the old system? And if that is the case, there has to be a plan in place, and if there is a plan, why is the plan not being shared mainstream?


It will be a completely different world when these technologies are fully rolled out. Many promoters of AI are not aware of this. I can guarantee you.


It won't take very long with any type of research to see how the technology could be used in ways that will catch many off-guard; some even presented as being benevolent when it is very strange and questionable things - 3D printed meat anyone?








The above are two books that were recommended to me to read on the subject. The authors are well-known thought leaders of today, who are making it known about how they plan to fully deploy AI in the very near future. I haven't read them yet, but you will see that AI is not here to merely help us. They have much bigger plans.



You can see that this information is all available, but most people are caught up in the shiny newness of it all and won't question the mainstream narrative. You may just need to connect a few dots - which isn't hard to do.


As the saying goes, "if you want to keep a secret, put it in a book".


The great overseers of this technology cannot help themselves. They want to tell us all about it, knowing many won't dig deep. That's why any acceptance of AI in interior design can be a very slippery slope that we must tread carefully.


You would think that the mere fact that this is about new technology, the true intent would be shared through technology - on social platforms and all over our algorithms. No! Instead they are written in books that require diligence, patience, time and research to find. But it's all there, if we just pay attention to the future of this technology.


This post is about sharing my perspective and maybe spread some awareness.


I am well aware that there is absolutely nothing I can do or say to stop the train that has long left the station, so that is not the intent. This post is for anyone who may have never thought about the implications of AI or had some questions about it and find my perspective useful. There is so much more I could share, but this should get you started on your own awareness and research.



Living Room Design Katy TX


Living Room Rendering


I urge you as a consumer to do your due diligence when you go to hire an interior designer. Look at their body of work, social media platforms and ask questions about how they executed the designs they are showcasing.


There are ways you can distinguish a rendering from real life, as well as an AI generated image from real life. It's getting harder to do so these days, so asking the right questions of your design professional may be helpful as well.


I would love to get your take on using AI in interior design whether you are a consumer or designer reading this. Sound off in the comments.





Want a real design for your home or office? Let's talk!




Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


Veronica


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